WTF Wednesday: rolling roadblocks in L.A.

Posted on
Feb 23, 2011
Posted in: WTF

L.A. traffic. Ignore the dead bugs on the windshield.

I’d like to think that, as a Seattleite (Seattlite? Does it matter?) I know a thing or three about traffic. It’s taken me 25 minutes to move 25 feet before (east side, rush hour). I’ve nearly cried in frustration at our city’s gridlock, pressing my head against the steering wheel in the middle of a parking lot that was once a moving road.

And one time, I heard the traffic reporter on the radio describe our city’s congested areas as “epicenters of disaster.” When your traffic is so bad that it inspires that kind of poetry, you know your city has something singular going on. But, hometown pride aside (and yes, I can be prideful of my city’s traffic. Especially if Minnesotans can gloat about balls of twine) I have to say – the kids in L.A.? They beat us when it comes to traffic.

So, um … congratulations, I guess?

Rand and I drove up to L.A. from San Diego a few weeks ago – he had some work to do there, and I wanted to visit some folks (including my brother, who you may remember from such blog posts as “Shit My Brother Says” and “My Brothers Weigh in on the Full-Body Scanners”, as well as such traumatic events as MY ENTIRE CHILDHOOD). We left fairly early in the day, and did a pretty good job of avoiding gridlock.

And then, to turn a phrase an acquaintance of mine used after ingesting too much of an illegal substance, shit got weird.

A cop on a motorcycle zoomed passed us, driving on the center line between lanes. Rand kind of started – he literally came out of nowhere, and seemed to be going in upwards of 90 miles an hour. Must be some sort of emergency, we gathered. But a few car lengths ahead of us, he slowed down, and started, well, weaving.

For a brief moment, I thought he had lost his mind. His zig-zags were sharp, and then slowly grew wider and wider until they spread across nearly all lanes of traffic, which consequently had to slow down to his pace.  As soon as we slowed down, the weaving stopped, and another cop joined him, keeping all the vehicles at a slow pace of about 30 mph (occasionally, a car would try and creep up, and the officer would dart directly in front of that vehicle, holding him back).

McDonald's product-placement unintentional.

After a few minutes of keeping a painfully slow pace, traffic became more and more congested. Just as I began feeling claustrophobic, the police officers sped up, and we were able to resume our normal speeds.

Rand and I exchanged a quick, “What the hell was that?” look, before he accelerated, and we finished our trek to Los Angeles.

Later, thanks to the all-knowing internet (seriously, it provides me cookie recipes, shoes, and answers all my questions. Is there anything you can’t do, internet?) I found out we had experienced a “rolling roadblock.” It’s a method used to intentionally slow traffic (rather than stop it altogether) in order to do necessary roadside repairs, remove debris, or allow police-escorted vehicles onto the freeway.

I’ve never seen anything like it in Seattle. I assume this is because of several reasons – important people don’t visit here (so we don’t need police escorts), we ruthlessly block lanes when we do road repairs, and we all drive about 30 mph on the freeway, anyway. So, congrats, L.A. – your traffic is so serious, that occasionally the cops have to make it worse, in order to make it better.

Seriously. WTF, L.A.? If this happens again, promise me that at the very least, it will be handled by these guys:


Because stuck in traffic for a few hours with Ponch and John? That is not something I would complain about.

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